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Reverse Sneezing In Chihuahuas: 5 Reasons + 15 Tips

Reverse Sneezing In Chihuahuas

What is reverse sneezing?

Why are Chihuahuas reverse sneezing?

And is it dangerous?

Read on to discover:

  • The truth about reverse sneezing in Chihuahuas.
  • The difference between sneezing, reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse.
  • 5 common reasons why Chihuahuas reverse sneeze (+ 15 tips for when your Chi is doing it).
  • And more…

Reverse sneezing in Chihuahuas (my personal experiences)

I’ll never forget the day when I first saw Lissa (my long-haired Chihuahua mix) reverse sneezing…

Little did I know what was happening…

So, I panicked… I thought she had ingested something and was choking.

I gently tapped her on the back, hoping she’ll spit out whatever object was causing her suffering. Nothing changed.

It looked really bad and it sounded even worse…

I quickly grabbed my phone and made a short video, and without further delay, me and my boyfriend took her to the vet.

The vet examined her and told us that Lissa has experienced reverse sneezing.

‘So far, so good’ I hear you say but the question remains:

What is reverse sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is a respiratory phenomenon seen in dogs, especially ones who belong to the brachycephalic and toy-dog groups. It sounds like goose-honking or snorting. The Chihuahua will stand still, extend their neck and inhale repeatedly through the nose. This should last about 10-15 seconds.

Why do Chihuahuas reverse sneeze?

Reverse sneezing could be caused by an allergy, over-excitement, or because the Chihuahua is trying to remove foreign particles such as grass or dust from the upper airways. Or their throat might itch. Reverse sneezing itself is not an indication of an underlying medical condition.

Caution: Reverse sneezing could indicate an undiscovered health issue when your Chihuahua is struggling to breathe.

The difference between sneezing, reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse

Before we continue, let’s be clear on how to recognize regular sneezing, reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse…


Sneezing occurs due to irritation of the airways. This can happen because of allergens (pollen, dust, mold) and irritants (second-hand smoke for example).

During dry sneezing, your Chihuahua exhales air rapidly.

Wet sneezing on the other hand could include fluids such as mucus or blood.

Reverse sneezing

Inhaling and exhaling happens through the nose with the mouth either partially open or fully-closed.

When reverse sneezing begins, your Chihuahua will stand still and extend their head and neck. You will notice abdominal contractions.

Reverse sneezing will stop on its own. Once the episode is over, your Chihuahua’s breathing and posture will be back to normal.

Tracheal collapse

It’s easier to confuse reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse than you might think.

Tracheal collapse causes coughing and other respiratory problems.

Both of these conditions can lead to your Chi emitting a ‘honking’ sound.

The big giveaway whether your Chi is dealing with a tracheal collapse or reverse sneezing, is indicated through pauses in-between the episodes.

Meaning – if your Chihuahua starts breathing normally after one episode of the honking sound has stopped, then it’s reverse sneezing.

With tracheal collapse you’ll notice difficulty breathing and no pauses in which your Chi can regain their normal pace of breathing.

5 reasons why Chihuahuas reverse sneeze

 #1: Nasal mites

Nasal mites can be transferred from one dog to another. Which could explain where your Chihuahua got them from.

If your Chihuahua has nasal mites, they will cause itching.

The good news is that your Chihuahua can be tested for nasal mites.

#2: Seasonal allergies

Are you aware of any seasonal allergies your Chi might have?

If this is the first time you’re taking care of a Chihuahua, it’s good to have them tested.

#3: Fragrance sensitivity

Have you ever considered that your Chihuahua might actually be allergic to a new perfume of yours? Specifically – to a chemical in the substance.

It’s possible and given the abilities of the dog’s nose to experience smell, it can be quite intense.

#4: Cigarette and/or candle smoke

Second-hand smoke could easily irritate the nasal paths. The same goes for lit candles.

#5: Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections can cause reverse sneezing because the body will try to clear the upper airways.

#6: An unfit Chihuahua overexercising

Is your Chi overweight?

If so, and you let them walk or run for quite long all of a sudden, they might start reverse sneezing.

#7: Over-excitement

If your Chihuahua gets overexcited for some reason, they could start reverse sneezing.

An occasion when a Chi can get overexcited is while playing, or while seeing another dog passing by out of the window.

#8: Eating and drinking too fast

If your Chi gulps the water and their food like there’s no tomorrow, you can witness an episode of reverse sneezing.

#9: Pressure on the throat

Usually the cause for pressure on your Chihuahua’s throat is the harness or the collar you use. When it’s too tight, it can cause irritation and suffocation.

15 tips for when your Chihuahua is reverse sneezing

If you’re wondering whether you can stop or reduce reverse sneezing, then these tips might help.

Let’s start with what you can DO:

#1: Blow into your Chihuahua’s face

It might sound funny but it does the trick. This will help your Chihuahua to swallow a few times and the problem should be gone.

How to do it: Don’t panic and start blowing as if your Chihuahua’s face is on fire. Instead, blow gently, being 10-15 centimeters away from your Chihuahua’s face.

You could also use a calming tone of voice to back up this action and comfort your dog.

#2: Massage the sinuses

Gently massage the sinuses of your Chi.

#3: Massage the throat

You can stop an episode of reverse sneezing if you massage the throat.

Do this by rubbing the fingertips up and down your Chi’s throat.

Then the spasm connected to reverse sneezing should seize.

#4: Hold your Chihuahua’s nostrils closed

The other thing you could do is to briefly hold your Chihuahua’s nostrils closed for a second or two. Do this by tapping the nostrils with your fingertips.

You could massage the throat in the meantime.

#5: Offer your Chihuahua water or a treat

Taking several sips of water will ease the swallowing process. Provide fresh water and wait to see if your Chihuahua will take the initiative.

If that doesn’t do it, you can always try offering your Chi a favorite snack. This ought to clear up the throat.

#6: Remove any possible irritants

If you suspect that your Chihuahua’s reverse sneezing might be caused by a new strong odor of a detergent or a perfume, you can settle for allergen-free products.

One giveaway that this is the case is when your Chihuahua experiences reverse sneezing indoors.

Refrain from using cleaning products or air fresheners that contain aromas.

Caution: Put your Chihuahua in another room while you clean.

#7: Note down when it happens

It’s always good to look at the event with a bit of context. Try to take notes whenever this happens.

You can add a video to that. This way you’ll help your vet determine whether this is really reverse sneezing or something else such as tracheal collapse for example.

#8: Look out for other clinical signs

Is your Chihuahua’s reverse sneezing accompanied by a clinical sign?

Watch out for:

  • Sneezing.
  • Lethargy.
  • Bloody nose.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Trouble breathing.

#9: Take your Chi to the vet

Often reverse sneezing is a red flag that your Chihuahua needs to be checked by your vet.

The vet will then look at the nasal passages, mouth and throat.

Through rhinoscopy, the vet will determine whether the cause for reverse sneezing are mites, polyps or tumors.

To rule out any serious conditions such as nasal cancer, the vet can run biopsy.

Bear in mind that even though reverse sneezing is common and usually harmless, it’s unpleasant for your Chihuahua.

So, your vet might prescribe medication. Especially if reverse sneezing happens frequently.

When seasonal allergies are what’s causing reverse sneezing, your Chihuahua will be alright by just taking some antihistamines.

#10: Use a shorter lead

The aim of using a shortened lead is to prevent your Chihuahua sticking their nose in all kinds of grass that can irritate them.

You can use an extendable lead and shorten it as soon as your Chi reaches an area with untrimmed grass or weeds.

#11: Use a harness instead of a collar

A harness is the better choice out of the two as it doesn’t apply much pressure on the throat.

This will also spare possible tracheal injuries in case your Chihuahua pulls rapidly.

#12: Minimize the levels of excitement and stress

You can ensure your Chihuahua doesn’t get overexcited or stressed by removing any possible triggers.

Keep the windows shut if your Chi tends to get agitated.

Let your Chi have a quiet undisturbed space in the house.

Now that we’ve covered what you should do, let’s continue with the DON’Ts:

#13: Don’t smoke or light up candles at home

Don’t expose your Chihuahua to second-hand smoke. Refrain from using candles.

If you do, make sure you open the windows immediately so the air could get refreshed. Better yet, don’t risk it.

#14: Don’t move your Chi’s tongue

Don’t worry. Reverse sneezing only looks troubling, but there’s no danger of your Chihuahua biting their tongue or anything like that.

Although there’s some advice on the internet to press the tongue of your Chihuahua down, I don’t encourage you to follow it.

Mostly because an attempt from your side to move the tongue can get you bitten.

#15: Don’t hold your Chi tightly

During reverse sneezing the chest of your Chihuahua needs to expand and contact rapidly. If you try to console your Chihuahua by hugging them or holding them tightly, you’ll interfere with the process and cause an inconvenience to them.